The following comes from an October 31 Deseret News article by William Hamblin and Daniel Peterson:
From 1957 through 2004, the official seal of Los Angeles County, California, centered on a standing image of Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit trees, gardens and orchards.
In 2004, the county board of supervisors, faced with claims by the American Civil Liberties Union that a tiny cross’ appearance on the seal violated the “Establishment Clause” of the United States Constitution and the separation of church and state, removed it. Curiously, the ACLU didn’t complain about the pagan goddess Pomona, the central and most prominent feature of the seal. Still, the supervisors took the opportunity to remove her as well.
The revised seal now features a standing Native American woman flanked by an image of the Mission San Gabriel Arcángel, which was founded in 1771. Notably, though, the mission was first depicted without a cross. However, in January 2014, the county supervisors voted 3-2 to add a cross to the building’s image, citing the need for historical accuracy. A month later, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit alleging that putting the cross back on the county seal violated the constitutions of both California and the United States.
It will be very difficult to erase the Christian heritage of California and the broader American Southwest. The state is studded with cities, mountains and valleys named after saints such as Santa Maria, the mother of Jesus; her husband, San Jose; and her parents, San Joaquin and Santa Ana. San Francisco commemorates the founder of the Franciscan order; San Diego and San Bernardino recall members of that order, and both Santa Clara and Santa Clarita memorialize Francis’ most famous female disciple.
San Fernando was named to honor a canonized 13th-century king of Castille. San Luis Obispo honors St. Louis of Anjou, a 13th-century bishop of Toulouse, France. The word “Obispo” (“bishop”) distinguishes him from the 13th-century Louis IX, the only sainted king of France; the mission of San Luis Rey stands in modern-day Oceanside, California, and, of course, the city of St. Louis, Missouri, bears his name.
Santa Monica recalls the mother of St. Augustine, after whom an important city in Florida was christened. San Clemente honors a first-century bishop of Rome, regarded by Catholics as one of the first popes. Santa Barbara remembers a Christian martyr. San Onofre preserves the name of the fourth-century Egyptian hermit St. Onuphrius. We could go on for quite some time, with names such as San Ramon, San Gorgonio, San Marino, San Dimas, Santa Margarita, San Rafael, San Simeon and the like.
But there’s still hope: In 1996, the question arose of renaming Canada’s Northwest Territories. For a while — we’re not making this up — one of the most popular suggestions was “Bob.” In the end, though, the province’s name remained unaltered. So, happily, “Bob” remains available as a replacement for, say, “San Francisco.”